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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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This Oil Nation Aims To Colonize Mars


The UAE may not be the first country that comes to mind when one thinks of space exploration, but it has big plans to colonize mars, and it’s got the oil money to do it. The plan is already in the works, complete with a concept design for a mini city, to be built by robots.

Though space exploration usually conjures up visions of Russia and the U.S., the UAE has a long history of high-profile, futuristic technological developments, for everything from artificial islands to the world’s first rotating skyscraper and 3D printing.

This time, however, the Emiratis are in no rush: their project is called Mars 2117 and media have praised them for not being overambitious, unlike, some say, Elon Musk and NASA, with their plans to start sending people to Mars some time over the next few decades. As one author points out, neither SpaceX, nor NASA have the money needed to advance space transportation technology quickly enough.

The Emiratis, however, are starting slow, from square one. According to a press release from the government of Dubai, the initial stage of the project will focus on developing the skills and expertise necessary to move forward. This stage will in effect involve a change in the educational system of the emirate, to enable future generations to sprout the engineers who will take the project further. Related: How Long Can The Permian Craze Continue?

In a poetic summary, the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, said that “The new project is a seed that we plant today, and we expect future generations to reap the benefits, driven by its passion to learn to unveil a new knowledge.”

One cannot help but appreciate the sober, rational approach, devoid of the urge for quick results. It is this approach that has the biggest chance of success, after all, and we – or rather our descendents – may see the Emirati-international team in a nose-to-nose race with SpaceX because, to be fair, Elon Musk has not set a tight deadline for SpaceX’s manned mission to Mars. It could take place in 40 to 100 years.

So, the interesting question is: will the Emiratis team up with Musk to take people to Mars? It’s not unlikely, to say the least.

The UAE’s space agency was set up just three years ago and has yet to build sufficient expertise and experience to enable the education of those future engineers we mentioned. SpaceX, on the other hand, has been around for 13 years and is already sending rockets to space and getting them back, too. The company has scheduled its 10th commercial launch for tomorrow, to take supplies and science reports to the International Space Station. Related: Is The Bakken A Bust?

It’s a perfect fit, really. SpaceX and Elon Musk have the expertise, the experience, and the skills, and Dubai has the money. Of course, just because they look like a perfect fit this doesn’t mean they will team up. And yet, on a speculative note, let’s recall that Musk last week opened a Tesla showroom in Dubai. That’s the first Tesla presence in the Middle East and many considered it an exceptionally bold move, given the Emirates’ oil focus.

The Emiratis, despite the oil price crash, still have a respectable stash in their sovereign wealth fund, the Investment Corporation of Dubai. The fund was worth US$175 billion three years ago, when it launched its international expansion strategy, and now, according to one author, it has reached US$500 billion. With that kind of money—and technological prowess—Mars seems feasible.


By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Bill Simpson on February 19 2017 said:
    Let's examine a few of the rather expensive problems with living on Mars. Hollywood makes people think that is actually possible. It is, but the cost would be in the tens of trillions of dollars. And the possibility of a self sustaining Mars colony is a remote one.
    Mars has no magnetic field. That means the surface is constantly hit by radiation from deep space, and also from the Sun. It isn't strong enough to be rapidly dangerous, but over the decades, it will do damage to DNA. That will shorten the life span of any higher life forms.
    There is another little problem. Mars has no atmosphere other than trace amounts of carbon dioxide and a few other gasses. Making an atmosphere won't be easy nor cheap. Everything you need will have to be transported from Earth. And you will need millions of tons of it.
    What will happen if a fire starts inside a Martian habitat? Don't plan on running outside into a vacuum.
    Mars has no liquid water on it because it is extremely cold. If the heating goes out in your very expensive space suit, you will freeze to ice in about 60 minutes. You will die of hypothermia a lot faster. And those space suits are delicate. One fellow nearly drowned right outside the International Space Station. At least that won't happen on Mars. Hope none of that electric stuff inside your suits goes haywire. You can't take the helmet off unless you want to experience a vacuum.
    You could have trouble staying warm on Mars because it doesn't have a single gram of those dirty fossil fuels which we humans have gone and let ourselves get addicted to. That means all your electric power will need to come from solar panels or nuclear fission. Fusion reactors are a bummer to construct, even on Earth with an unlimited supply of concrete and specialty steels. That won't be on Mars for centuries, so solar is it. Bringing enough heavy solar panels to operate even a small colony from Earth to Mars will take many giant rocket launches. The darned planet is farther from the Sun, so you will need even more of them than you need here. Problem is, due to the distance to Mars and the fact that Mars just won't stay still, you can only ship them once every couple of years. Building hundreds of giant rockets to do that won't be cheap.
    Ever get sick, or go to a hospital packed with all those specialists and medical supplies? Need drugs to stay healthy? None of that there. And once you get past about 40, a lot of things can start to go wrong. So stay healthy because it is a two year trip back to see a specialist.
    Ever think how much food and water you consume in a week? It is more than you realize. And you generate a lot of waste. Water will be very expensive on Mars because it will have to be essentially mined from the frozen soil. The machinery to do that won't be simple and will need to come from Earth. Constructing enclosures to grow food won't be easy, since they will need to be gas tight. A lot of electrical energy will be needed to grow the plants and keep them at the right temperature. The gas mixture inside the living and growing enclosures will need to be kept just right. Fans to circulate air will be needed, along with filters to clean it. You will need to control the humidity or it will get all moldy. Watch for fellow Martians who might develop a mental problem, and decide to commit suicide. It won't take much for them to take you with them.
    I know, robots will be sent there to do all the work needed to get Mars ready for people to just step off the spaceship and start having fun. They will need to power, maintain, and repair themselves. See any robots around that can do that all by themselves?
    So a few researchers will someday land on Mars. After two years they will be more than ready to come home. I hope their bones don't break from spending all that time in zero G. Humans aren't designed to survive in zero G for years. And even the low G of Mars, about 1/3 that of Earth, as I recall, might cause reproductive or developmental problems.
    And wouldn't you know it, the solar wind will probably strip away any Martian atmosphere as fast as you could make it. We're stuck here until the expanding Sun fries us in about a half billion years. I'll start worrying in a another few million years.
  • Douglas on February 20 2017 said:
    A great idea. Maybe they can take the rest of the middle east with them.
  • Don Clifford on February 20 2017 said:
    Energy production on the Mars planet is key. Only nuclear can provide a sufficient energy supply for self sustaining colonization. This can be fission or fusion, when it becomes viable.
  • GregS on February 20 2017 said:
    ^^^ Ditto on what Bill Simpson wrote above
  • George Tirebiter on February 20 2017 said:
    "The UAE may not be the first country that comes to mind when one thinks of space exploration", but someone there realized, just like the big boys (US, Russia, China), that fake 'space exploration' is a great way to siphon off billions for black box projects.
    "This time, however, the Emiratis are in no rush: their project is called Mars 2117..." since they have learned from those before them that pushing the goal out leaves more time to pilfer the treasury.
    Elon Musk and NASA have paved the way for the UAE by clearly demonstrating a proven path to con the public, utilizing fake science and copious amounts of CGI.
    "This stage will in effect involve a change in the educational system of the emirate, to enable future generations to..." be indoctrinated into believing that space travel is possible.
    "...will the Emiratis team up with Musk to take people to Mars? "
    They might as well since Musk (and NASA before him) has already greased the skids for anyone else that wants to get in on the hoax.
    What they might start out with though, as an easy training exercise, is sending someone to the moon.
    After all, for 'some' reason, it's been 48 years since anyone has supposed to have been there and it's sooo much closer than Mars.
  • hyena on February 21 2017 said:
    Whole new world to bomb... imagine the spectacular fireworks when some moslem decides to earn his 72 goats by blowing up a spaceship...

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